Still searching for the perfect gift or simply want to avoid the hustle and bustle of shops during the festive season? Why not look a little closer to home and gift something from your garden? There’s still time to venture outside and see what you can find before Christmas.
According to recent reports, the handmade industry is booming. Earlier in the year, bespoke retailer Wunderlabel claimed there were approximately 2.1 million sellers on Etsy — the largest single platform for handmade sellers; they also predicted an increase in opting for natural materials and repairing items rather than buying new as a 2019 craft trend. And it seems they were spot on with the likes of Channel 4’s festive craft show Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas dominating our TV screens.
Ceramicist and artist Joanna Bond, who creates tiles, pots and sculptures featuring leaves, grasses and seed heads, believes climate change is the reason people are avoiding the commercialisation of Christmas and turning to handcrafting.
‘We are facing a catastrophic occurrence if we don’t stop buying so much,’ says the 41-year-old, ‘I think it’s great that more people are making things from the garden rather than going out and purchasing more stuff. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with supporting local artists who are not mass-producers.’
Joanna wants to remind people of the true beauty of nature by imprinting leaves, that she has collected from her own garden in West Wales, into clay to make tiles, earrings and even Christmas decorations. She allows the clay to dry before firing it in a kiln and staining it with different colour oxides to emphasise the veins of the leaves. Overall, the process takes about four to five days.
For a similar result which takes a less time, Joanna recommends following the same process but using air drying clay and a circle cutter to make your own Christmas decoration to gift to someone.
‘You simply have to let [the clay] dry, then paint and varnish it.’ If using white or red air drying clay, you could even leave it plain, she explains.
She believes sage, fennel, dill, strawberry and yarrow leaves are the best to use in printing because of their pronounced veins.
‘My friend who runs a gallery commissioned me to make Christmas decorations with leaves printed in the centre because she felt that when all the leaves are gone from the trees, you are reminded that spring is coming,’ she adds.
Making an original wreath, whether it’s to display in your own home or to give to someone else, is another festive decoration we can make from our garden. ‘I love making wreaths out of the garden,’ says Joanna, ‘you can buy or make a willow ring and use foliage, evergreens and holly and ribbons to create a nice wreath.’
It is not only the receiver of the gift who will benefit, but the maker also. Joanna has experienced huge benefits to her wellbeing through crafting with nature.
‘To be a crafter, you have to be very mindful of what you’re doing,’ she explains, ‘we can be so distracted by life and the modern world with our phones and how many likes we’ve got on Facebook when we just [need to] slow down, pay attention and find time for ourselves. It is immensely important for our wellbeing.’
For these reasons, Joanna would encourage people to give gifts from their garden this Christmas.
She says: ‘We don’t want to be continuing to be a throwaway culture. We need to drastically slow down from buying things and something that is handmade from the garden is a thoughtful, lovely way to give a gift.’
Joanna’s creations are available to purchase on her website. You can also watch her tutorials to make your own. She also runs workshops across the region. Next spring, she hopes to hold a session which will involve meditating with trees.
6 quick & easy garden gift ideas
- Fresh herbs — simply snip off a large bunch of herbs, tie a rubber band around them and then a ribbon. They will add delicious flavour to many festive dishes.
- Homemade preserves or sauces — try making jams, chutneys or pickles with fresh produce from your garden. Chutneys make the perfect accompaniment to any turkey roll.
- Homemade seed packets — collect seeds from your garden and place them into packets, label them using your printer or with calligraphic handwriting.
- Flowers — similar to herbs, you can gift a bunch of fresh cut flowers or pop them in a suitable container. Be sure to select the ones flowering most strongly if giving them as a gift for someone else to plant in their garden.
- Plant markers — find large smooth stones, add plant names and embellish using non-toxic paint.
- Potpourri — press flowers and petals using a book to dry them and you have ready-made potpourri which you can package in a pretty bowl or jar. Be aware, it can take seven days for them to fully dry out.